I’m sure it’s not intentional. You hear my story, and things get awkward. You want to fill the space. You call me “strong,” because that’s what you’ve heard other people say. You call me “brave,” because it sounds inspirational…
“You’re so strong”; strong-shaming the bereaved
Growing up, I heard the words “be strong” a lot…And maybe this is something I have internalized. This sense of false stoicism, where emotions are suspect.
When I was new in my grief, there were a number of situations where people said or did something and I wanted to respond, but I just didn’t have the words. Now that I am further out, I have put together a set of potential scripts to use in these situations.
We default to these standard phrases when seeking to comfort others in pain. Unfortunately, these phrases actually make the pain worse..
How do you respond to the phrase, “You’re so strong” when you feel like you’re anything but? People tell me I’m strong, but I feel like I’m dying inside.
People sometimes ask me if my daughter is my first child. I needed a simple way to tell them I had a child before her, but he died. When people ask me now, I have a simple response.
Many people told me I was “strong” when I was deep in grief. I think it’s meant as a compliment. It doesn’t help, though. I don’t FEEL strong. I feel broken. This life isn’t a choice I made, like running a marathon or getting a PhD. It isn’t something I prepared for and overcame. It simply happened.
I still wonder, now, if Amy knew what was coming. She was already pretty attached to me. It was hard to say for sure. She and Saki liked to cuddle around my big belly on the couch at night. Some nights I would sleep there. Life seemed pretty good.
I’m not actively suicidal, but this is the beginning. This is the in-between stage; this is where it starts. This is what it looks like when someone is crying out in pain and the entire world tells her, “You’re strong; you’re fine…Simply because I’ve decided you’re not allowed to be anything else.”
I didn’t ask to live here. I loved Sunshine. I had so many plans. I built my peaceful house there. But my key doesn’t fit.
There was a time when I was broken. (I’m still broken). There was a time when I struggled to get out of bed. (I still struggle to get out of bed). There was a time when all of this was so much harder / more immediate. There was a time when I needed help with almost everything. But not all things. I still remembered how to eat and go to the bathroom. I still knew how to put on my own clothes.
In the black-and-white photos, he looks like he’s sleeping. Photos are difficult; they don’t tell the whole story.
I am a weed. They say I am strong, but I do not aim to be so. I don’t aim to be anything. I’m just here.
Dear pregnant woman in my office – people are starting to get excited. They threw you a baby shower, and things are starting to feel very familiar. I wish I could explain why I’ve started to dislike you. I wish there were some logic beyond jealously and pain.